The re-opening of borders between Gulf countries and Qatar means that regional airlines will now be able to operate direct flights to the country – reducing flight times and operational costs as the industry goes through its worst-ever crisis.
“The reopening of airspace with Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt is welcome news for the region, passengers and the aviation industry during these very difficult times,” said Muhammad Al Bakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.
“It will permit the resumption of direct flights between these countries and Qatar, eliminating complex transit travel itineraries that saw typical journey times increase from under an hour to over five hours in some cases,” said Al Bakri.
Will help vaccine movement
The agreement will also aid the global campaign to transport vaccines across the world.
This “opens the door for the establishment of quarantine-free travel corridors which will allow families and friends across the region to be able to reconnect and businesses trade more easily,” said Al Bakri. “And will facilitate the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines globally given the region’s strategic location”
Who are flying?
The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has announced reopening of airspace and resuming of air traffic between the UAE and Qatar as of Saturday.
However, most travel websites are still not showing any direct flights between Dubai or Abu Dhabi and Qatar’s capital Doha.
Emirates and Etihad did not respond to a Gulf News inquiry about their flight plans. flydubai, Saudi Arabia’s flagship carrier Saudia, and Bahrain’s Gulf Air did not reply either.
“I expect all airlines will resume serving Qatar over time,” said Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst and consultant. “I am not sure about the coming days; however, given the current market conditions it could take some time”
Qatar airways: the biggest winner
While other airlines will benefit from being able to fly to Qatar again, the country’s flagship carrier will be the biggest beneficiary, said analysts.
“They will face intense competition from Qatar Airways which for some carriers will result in an overall negative impact,” said Sobie. “There are also airlines, particularly from Oman and Kuwait, that were benefitting from the blockade by carrying passengers between the UAE and Qatar via their hubs that will no longer enjoy this benefit now that the blockade has been lifted”
Overall, the end of the blockade is a “very encouraging” development that is positive for aviation, said Sobie. “Coupled with the opening up of the Israel market we are beginning a new brighter phase for the GCC airline sector”